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RISD’s Pre-K on state’s radar; Department of Public Education video features programs from local teachers

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On Tuesday evening, RISD School Board members join the meeting attendees to watch a video regarding the state's pre-kindergarten program. Regional arm of the Public Education Department, Jody Alpers said a portion of the video was filmed in Roswell schools. (Alison Penn Photo)

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Roswell Independent School District’s Pre-K staff was honored for exemplary practices in Interim Superintendent Susan Sanchez’s reports on Tuesday evening at the school board meeting.

At the school board meeting on Tuesday night, Teresa Andreis, a Berrendo Elementary pre-k teacher, thanked the school board for their initiatives to allow teachers like herself to operate effective pre-k programs. (Alison Penn Photo)

RISD’s selection for superintendent will be announced on Monday at 5 p.m. during a special school board meeting.

“With great pleasure, I have my Pre-K staff here — Principal Kathy Macha, Jody Alpers, and following under government programs under the direction of Jennifer Cole —  to proudly present the New Mexico Pre-K expansion video that our teachers bravely and amazingly have put together on behalf of the Public Education Department,” Sanchez said.

Teresa Andries (Berrendo Elementary School), Starlett Baldwin (Parkview Early Literacy Center), Eric Rivera (Parkview Early Literacy Center), Tracey Clements (Parkview Early Literacy Center) and Kelsey Wilson (Parkview Early Literacy Center) were the teachers present at the school board meeting.

The Pre-K staff received a round of applause and appreciation from the school board and after Sanchez said the Pre-K staff goes the extra mile to support early childhood programs and there are dynamic teachers throughout the district.

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“This is the best-kept secret in our district,” Jennifer Cole, district director of federal programs, said. “They are amazing teachers. The professional development that they have to have in under two years is incredible. We just need to really just share that great work they’re doing is foundational.”

The school board joined the meeting attendees to view the video, which featured the Pre-K program administered by the Public Education Department and the Children, Youth and Families Department. The Public Department of Education’s (PED) website said this program ensures that every child in New Mexico has the opportunity to attend a high-quality early childhood education program prior to kindergarten. The entire video is available for viewing on the PED website.

“The majority of the video was of RISD,” Mona Kirk said. “That’s amazing! I’m so proud. As a teacher, as an administrator, I know early intervention is the key. If you can get them young, you will level the playing field. So I commend you for what you are doing and I know these babies will grow and see the benefit year after year. I could just tell from the passion in your faces. Thank you.”

Christopher Ruszkowski, PED secretary of education, said the state ranks 16th in access to early education and ranks 20th in spending. Saying he hopes early education will continue to expand, Ruskowski said he thinks teaching kindergarten requires technical skills, can be difficult and is an art form.

Jody Alpers, PED’s regional early childhood instructional coach said financial sustainability is needed to keep these programs operating along with access for more children. Cole said the team was fortunate to have Alpers coaching weekly on behalf of the PED in RISD schools. Sally Green from the University of New Mexico is the other regional coach.

“We have applied for some more funding for the New Mexico Pre-K,” Sanchez said. “I’d like to think the money we are investing here will reduce the number of retentions and also being able to ensure students are reading at third grade.”

Andries said she was proud of the PED and RISD for championing the cause for early childhood and said it was amazing to see the “big kids” honored for various accomplishments earlier in the meeting.

“The state is looking at our district as a model,” Andries said. “We are just honored to be able to teach these children and to speak into their lives and speak into the lives of the parents,” Andries said. “It’s a pretty incredible job to have. It’s just such an important need and you guys are behind us in supporting that. We thank you so much.”

Andries said in her first year offering of Pre-K registration there were parents lined from the front of Berrendo Elementary across the parking lot to Pine Lodge Road. In that year, Andries said there were 61 kindergarteners with only 19 that participated in an early childhood education program. Andries said parents not being able to afford preschool was a stumbling block for most of them.

Alpers thanked the board for supporting this program and said it would not happen without the school board’s support. She said the staff is also working with Eastern New Mexico University to eventually offer an early childhood education degree program with an option for RISD staff to pursue the program.

“Roswell has a very strong legacy for early childhood education, but right now there is just recognition in Santa Fe for our area — believe me,” Alpers said. “That’s why they sent a film crew down here because they know that there are such great things happening here under the current leadership. Also that they have mentioned to me several times, they are looking at Roswell as a hub for our area for early childhood as far as other districts coming.

“Roswell is on the radar and that’s why 80 percent of that video was in your district.”

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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